Last week the Africa Food Prize awarded Dr. Kanayo F.Nwanze, President of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in its inaugural event, for his “passionate advocacy in putting Africa’s smallholder farmers at the centre of the global agricultural agenda.” The African Food Prize recognises an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa. Agriculture is back on the African agenda, and as I mentioned here, it forms the basis of Africa’s development. Regardless of technology innovation and natural resources, Africa needs to feed itself.
Prizes, such as the African Food Prize, help to promote agricultural growth. Agricultural innovation has long been fought against in societies around the world. In England the Luddites marched around the countryside destroying machinery, which they thought was waking their jobs. In Africa it is no different, with agriculture the leading area of employment. The solution needs to be to increase productivity with tech without increasing unemployment. Prizes and competitions help promote and incentivise innovation, and although many will not win, they win indirectly through greater yields and income.
One example of an innovation that was successful in a competition is WeFarm, who won the Chivas Regal The Venture competition for social enterprises. WeFarm is free peer-peer service, that allows farmers to share information via SMS. So many innovations these days are focussed around the internet, but many farmers either do not have the hardware or the knowhow to be online, or the network. With this system farmers can ask questions and soon receive crowd sourced answers from other farmers worldwide. They can then learn how to increase yields, or set up micro businesses and much more, and hopefully increase productivity and revenues of their farm. (personal thoughts??)
Ghana’s GDP growth is 4.9 percent from last year, compared to 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter, and has also seen an annual growth in the agricultural sector. Agriculture is one of the reasons for this positive news. Farming tech in the country is helping the agricultural system. The Entrepreneurship for Commercial Seed Incubation Business (ECoSIB) is an initiative to help the business skills of seed enterprise and help them adopt a public-private partnership approach. They are attempting to provide a one-stop-shop for seed entrepreneurs by mentoring them and walking them through the process. The aim of many business minded farmers is to provide seed and seedling for other farmers. This not only creates business, but should also ensure that the quality of the plants is high.
If productivity increases, farmers are going to need a market for their wares. SokoNect offers Kenyan farmers a platform to sell their products on their mobile phone without leaving home. Small scale farmers can sell livestock, agricultural and horticultural products and cut out the middlemen, increasing profit margins. Mifugo, is a similar product solely for livestock sales. It acts as an exchange in which livestock is uploaded with relevant info and pictures and then buyers can big online. The risk for the buyer is taken away as they can buy their livestock on receiving it and after being satisfied. (One other way to buy a car is through #cowfunding in South Africa)
One other innovation is FarmDrive, which enables farmers to keep a digital record of their farming activities. This data can then be used to create a credit profile and give the farmers access to much needed capital to develop their farms. Often farmers are left out of the credit chain, but with this method they can begin to plan the growth of their farms, by increasing the quality of their crops, and increasing the efficiency of preparation and maintenance of their farms. Creating cooperatives amongst farmers is another way to increase purchasing power.
An importance is being placed on farming in Africa again. Urbanisation has taken people away from farm land, but there seems still be the heart of an agriculturalist beating many African city dwellers. In fact, many city dwellers are moving back to the countryside to use their skills and new technology to develop their family farms, such as Emmanuel Koranteng who moved back from the USA to Ghana, to start a pineapple farm. Innovation can persuade more people back to farming, and further boost the agricultural sector in Africa.